Each week, ABA’s member relationship managers — Liz Roberts and Daniel O’Brien — talk and e-mail with people who are interested in opening up a bookstore but unsure where to begin. Roberts and O’Brien share important information with them, including the benefits of the American Booksellers Association’s provisional membership for future booksellers who are at any stage in the process of opening a bookstore.
A popular option for prospective owners, a provisional membership offers a wide range of benefits, which include access to programs, initiatives, educational resources, and networking opportunities.
In the past year, 83 potential store owners from more than 20 states have signed up as provisional members of ABA, such as Bay Books in Suttons Bay, Michigan; Main(e) Point Books in Islesboro, Maine; and Boogie Down Books in the Bronx, New York, which were also invited to be profiled by ABA’s newsletter, Bookselling This Week, as part of joining the organization.
Depending on their location, provisional members work with either Roberts, ABA member relationship manager for areas covered by the New England Independent Booksellers Association, Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, and New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association, or O’Brien, ABA member relationship manager for areas covered by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association.
Joining ABA as a provisional member offers prospective owners the advantage of not having to reinvent the wheel, according to Roberts, adding that one of her favorite parts about her job is making information available and accessible to potential owners.
“We point to educational materials, help provisional members get connected with affinity partners to explore cost savings, and encourage them to connect with fellow booksellers on the Bookseller Forums to get recommendations and solutions as different needs and questions arise,” said Roberts.
People who want to open up a bookstore often don’t know what it is that they don’t know, added Roberts; a provisional membership ensures that potential owners are as well-informed as possible.
Provisional members can also take advantage of the ABC Children’s Institute and Winter Institute, events where booksellers can network with other experienced booksellers as well as participate in mentor/mentee pairings.
This year, there will be a workshop at Winter Institute called “Introduction to Retail Bookselling,” which is open to both regular and provisional members. Booksellers who attend will receive a crash course on the essentials of opening a new bookstore or buying an existing one. The workshop is facilitated by Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman of the Paz & Associates Bookstore Training Group.
A provisional membership also helps to foster a sense of community, and the membership department at ABA is always willing to help further the connection between prospective owners and the larger bookselling industry.
If a potential owner is seriously exploring the possibility of opening a bookstore, now is the perfect time to join as a provisional member, according to O’Brien.
“I think provisional members are really indicative of the vitality of the next generation of booksellers,” said O’Brien. “Anyone can dream up owning a bookstore, but only so many people are ready to jump into the water — and our provisional members are the folks who have taken that essential leap.”
ABA’s Provisional Membership Application can be found here. Questions concerning provisional memberships should be directed to Liz Roberts or Daniel O’Brien.